Becoming a lawyer isn’t necessarily easy or for the faint of heart. It requires persistence, dedication and a commitment to the law. It’s not quite as intensive as becoming a medical doctor but it’s likely a close second in terms of the investment of time and resources and the subsequent long hours it takes to establish oneself as a respected lawyer in their prospective practice areas.
In very general terms, the process usually involves:
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree: Law schools require applicants who apply for J.D. (juris doctor or Doctor of Jurisprudence) programs to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. There is no specific major or course of study required for law school; however, it can be beneficial to take courses that develop critical thinking, research, writing and communication skills. This is a little different than medical doctors who generally are advised to pursue specific pre-med paths or choose from a handful of relevant undergraduate degrees (commonly biology).
- Take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT): The LSAT is a standardized test that assesses skills in reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and logical reasoning. Most law schools in the United States require applicants to submit LSAT scores as part of their application. Some law schools may also accept the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) as an alternative to the LSAT. Test takers often benefit from significant preparation, which can come in the form of self-directed preparation books or even classes.
- Apply to law schools: Research and apply to accredited law schools, typically through the Law School Admission Council’s online service (LSAC). Law school applications usually require personal statements, letters of recommendation, resumes and official transcripts in addition to LSAT or GRE scores.
- Complete law school: Law school typically takes three years to complete on a full-time basis. During law school, students study various areas of law, such as constitutional law, contracts, torts, civil procedure, criminal law and property law. They may also participate in internships, externships or clinics to gain practical experience. Unlike students pursuing a medical degree, there is no post-graduate residency requirement, but internships or judicial clerkships can be beneficial from a career standpoint.
- Pass the bar exam: Georgia has a multi-step admission process for attorneys (each step has its own fees and filing deadlines). After earning a J.D., you must register and file an Application for Certification of Fitness. Once you’ve officially been certified as fit to practice by the Fitness Board of Georgia, you can sit for the Bar Exam (which you’ll need to file an application for as well). Foreign-educated applicants need to file a separate form. Georgia has two exams each year – a February exam and July exam. Application deadlines are January 31st and June 30th.
- Complete additional requirements: After you receive a passing score on the Bar Exam, you’ll need to take the Professional Responsibility Examination, or MPRE and receive at least a 75. Georgia administers the MPRE in April, August and November. Once you pass the MPRE and the Bar, you’ll be issued a Certificate of Eligibility and will be enrolled in the Transition Into Law Practice Program, where you’ll be assigned a volunteer mentor.
These are the general steps to becoming a lawyer in Georgia. The process isn’t easy, but it can be extremely rewarding.
Are Judicial Internships or Clerkships Required?
Some law school students will participate in judicial internships that may reward them credits in law school and even an invite to a judicial clerkship after they graduate. Clerkships are considered particularly prestigious, but they are not a requirement of becoming a lawyer. They are full-time and paid positions that last for one to two years and can give recent law school graduates valuable insight on a judge’s perspective and the overarching judicial process. The job of a clerk can include researching legal issues, helping to draft opinions and assisting the judge with oral argument preparation.
Internships are generally not a requirement of law schools, but they’re often strongly recommended.
Are You Interested in Pursuing a Legal Career in Atlanta?
The Dressie Law Firm is always on the lookout for exceptional talent and would be happy to talk to prospective and recent law school graduates. Call us at (678) 726-1429 to learn more about the Dressie Law Firm and our commitment to fighting for injured people in Atlanta.